I am not sure you would put Steve Jobs and Katie Couric in the same sentence, but an interesting similarity between them popped up in the last few days that is instructive for presenting and selling new ideas.
In 1983, Jobs was pursuing John Sculley, Pepsi’s wonder boy senior executive, to leave and run Apple. While Sculley was vacillating between whether to stay at the well-known soft drink behemoth or leave for the smaller, riskier Apple, Jobs challenged him with this now legendary line, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” With that vivid choice, Jobs got his man and Sculley signed on. (It didn’t work out so well for Jobs later on, but that is a different story.)
Fast forward thirty years to the spring of 2013. Katie Couric was hired to do a couple of interviews at a Yahoo “bonfire event” for CMOs and various luminaries at a fancy resort in Turks and Caicos. At that event, as she reveals in the latest issue of Fast Company, she said to Marissa Meyers, Yahoo’s CEO, “You have this opportunity. Do you want to be the place where you read about the boy who lived on ramen noodles for 13 years? Or, do you want to bring some original reporting and quality content to your site?”
At the time, Couric says, “She seemed really open and interested. I think she was intrigued by the prospect of making Yahoo into something where you could see some important stories and elevated content, not just about the Real Housewives.”
The rest is history. Couric began her new job as Yahoo’s global news anchor last spring and has been innovating the way news gets reported ever since.
In both cases, Couric and Jobs posed the question to appeal to the specific personalities of their listeners, in this case, two high-powered leaders. The question created two diametrically opposed images for them to consider, the first an obvious weak, banal choice, guaranteed to be rejected, and the second an exciting visionary one, guaranteed to appeal both to their positions and egos. Of course, Sculley and Meyers opted for the second choices.
How can you do that in your business with what you sell?
- Who needs to give you approval for a new idea?
- What are their hot buttons? (Which may not be to transform the world, but something else.)
- What two images can you combine to cast their choice in a stark compelling way?
How can you use this strategy to really “make what you say pay?”